|A prime contender for the
designation of "Godfather of Herpetoculture" is Philippe de
Vosjoli for his unending efforts to undertake, organize, and promote
the captive husbandry and breeding of all herps. He's the
founder of the American Federation of Herpetoculturists, and creator of The
Herpetocultural Library series of herp care books that have helped
more people maintain and successfully breed their animals than any other
publications. Many of its titles were personally authored or
co-authored by him. Those books have probably helped save more
live specimens in captivity than the world will ever know!
I (Bill) met Philippe back about 1973 -1974 when he formed the Palm Beach Herpetological Society in the West Palm Beach, Florida region. To the best of my knowledge, it was the first organized herp group in the state. Phil was the perfect "guru" to the fledgling bunch of enthusiasts, organizing a memorable herp show at the Palm Beach Mall in January 1975 that featured the favorite pets of members, plus several large venomous snakes among other things. He also pulled in some quality speakers to present slide shows and encourage us at our monthly meetings. Even back then, as he was easily the most herpetologically in-touch and informed person in the area.
A particular pleasant early memory involving Phil leaps to mind from that era: In the mid 1970s, he had just closed his ahead-of-its-time Natural Systems pet shop that emphasized herps in naturalistic vivarium mini-habitats. He was continuing the local herp supply lines from a back bedroom of his home for the many attendees who gravitated there after monthly meetings. It was the first time I'd ever had the opportunity to buy exotic species like baby reticulated pythons, green tree vipers, and horned frogs. I didn't have much spend money for animals, and prices like $25 and $35 each for individual herps was out of my range. I drooled in envy, wishing there was something I could afford. Those bizarre Colombian horned frogs were especially appealing, though I assumed that each one commanded an astronomical price. I asked anyway.
"Two" was all Phil replied. Oh, two hundred dollars each, I moaned, assuming the worst. A mere dream!
"No, two dollars each" he replied. It took a moment for the reality to sink in. With a big smile, I then decided to splurge and buy two of them. I had those first anuran pets for a couple years, and gained a broader appreciation for herps other than snakes from that experience.
It wasn't until many years later that I again saw Phil in his new home state of California, where he was busy exploring the care and breeding of things like horned frogs and bearded dragons. We all know the outcome of those pioneering efforts! The large pic is circa August 1988 in one of his herp rooms, about the time the Vivarium magazine was coming together in his mind. It was a direct offshoot of his love of herps and his hope to help others share the knowledge of their successes working with them, inspiring and spawning many other herp-oriented periodicals in the years to follow.
After his marriage to Gigi in 1996, they honeymooned in Madagascar on one of my tours. They invited me to New Caledonia with them and Frank Fast five months later to explore and photo-record the herpetofauna, especially the geckos, of many offshore islands near the southern end. That's Gigi in the lower inset pic, sitting on the beachfront on one of those tiny islands caring for a pair of just-caught huge Rhacodactylus leachianus.